11 Skills Your Child Learns Before They Start Talking

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11 Skills Your Child Learns Before They Start Talking | Eastside Speech

Did you know that your toddler is learning fundamental language skills well before they even say their first word? There’s a lot that goes into speech and language development – here we’ve compiled a list of 11 ‘pre-verbal’ skills that children develop before they start talking:

NoPre-verbal SkillWhat it Looks Like
1Reacting to events in the environmentConsistently reacting to things he/she sees, hears or feels
2Responding to other peopleEnjoying being around people, and responding to them when they are talking or playing with them
3Taking turns during interactionsParticipating in back-and-forth exchanges
4Developing a longer attention spanStaying on one activity for at least 5 minutes by themselves (even longer with adults)
5Shifting and sharing attentionSharing focus with another person, and shifting attention between them and an object
6Playing appropriately with a variety of toysPlaying well with many different toys, and using familiar objects in everyday routines
7Understanding early words and instructionsListening and following a variety of simple requests
8Making meaningful soundsUsing his or her voice to get your attention (even though they are not real words)
9Imitating actions, gestures, sounds and wordsCopying what he or she sees other people do and say
10Using early gesturesCommunicating nonverbally through pointing, waving, etc.
11Initiating interactions with othersDeliberately attempting to get an adult’s attention to play, or express needs and wants

You may be surprised to find that in your child’s first few early language sessions, their speech pathologist is seemingly not focusing on their words at all! That is because these pre-verbal skills form the building blocks for the important social, cognitive and linguistic abilities that underpin successful communication. After all, how can we expect a child to have a conversation if they do not yet initiate interactions or understand turn-taking exchanges?

If a child’s development in one or several of these domains is delayed, a language delay is also likely. Early intervention is extremely beneficial for these children – contact a speech language pathologist from Eastside Speech at 02 9398 3020 if you are concerned about your child’s pre-verbal skills or early language development.

Click here to find more information about our Speech Therapy for Toddlers.


Let’s Talk About Talking at teachmetotalk.com ©Laura Mize, M.S., CCC-SLP